South Asia is our route to progress: Need to rebuild the linkages
The session brought to the fore endless business possibilities by using coastal protocol route, developing rail connectivity and promoting transhipment among the ASEAN nations
Inhabitants of South Asian region depended on the Indian Ocean and Bay of Bengal since time immemorial for their livelihood,” remarked Moderator and Chairperson, Sajjadul Hassan, Secretary, Prime Minister’s Office, Government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh, as he spelled the aim of the session for governments, business community and trade associations to together share experiences, develop collaborations, identify new investment and business development opportunities among member countries in the maritime domain, while promoting respective countries to global audience.
Sanjay Swarup, Director (International Marketing and Operations), Container Corporation of India Ltd (CONCOR), focused his discussion on regional connectivity in South and southwest Asia. One of the earlier initiatives to improve connectivity in this region was a container train that moved through the first land bridge in 1998-99 and since then the route is operated as Russiantrans-siberian rail route. The second initiative was by china when they established the second Asian Europe Continental Land Bridge. In January 2008, a pilot container train travelled along that route between Beijing and Hamburg. The three Asia-europe Continental Land Bridges may be seen together in the next line. The first and second Asia-europe land bridge are already operational. Unfortunately the third land bridge passing through South and Southwest Asia region has not progressed much due to lack of political support and several missing rail links. This is one of the main reasons for the logistics cost in our region ranges between 13 to 14 per cent of GDP as compared to the first world countries where it is 8 per cent of GDP.
Talking about the multimodal transport scenario in India he said, India has about 70 dry ports operational, of which 50 are operated by CONCOR. With addition of few more dry ports, the figure is likely to reach 85 dry ports by 2020-21. Almost all CONCOR facilities are rail-linked and operate a fleet of 300 high-speed rakes. In addition another 17 private container train operators also offer cargo logistics services connecting various ports to hinterland and dry ports. In the east, rail connectivity between India and Bangladesh is at 5 locations, of which 3 are operational: Gede-darshana; Petrapole-benapole; Singhabad-rohanpur. Demonstration container train has been run between Dhaka and Kolkata. Talks are in progress with the revenue department of Bangladesh for moving motor parts, cotton, machinery and cement
for which there is huge demand from India for exporting to Bangladesh. CONCOR has the potential to run atleast one train per day to Bangladesh for moving these commodities. Going by sea it takes 24days to reach Dhaka from Ludhiana, but the same journey can be accomplished in 5 days if a direct train connects Ludhiana to Dhaka. Considering the transit time and cost this is a very beneficial proposition for trade community. CONCOR is also looking forward for barge movement from east coast of India to Pangaon.
Vinita Venkatesh, Director, Navayuga Container Terminal Pvt Ltd, India put forward initiatives in progress to make the bilateral protocol between India and Bangladesh work. Movement of goods from India to Bangladesh is good and growing, but the challenge is to improve exports from Bangladesh into India. Imports and exports between the countries need to be balanced in order to make the movement of river sea vessels between the nations a success. After the bilateral protocol was signed Krishnapatnam Port was the first to approach the sea vessel operators of Bangladesh and in March 2016, a service of the Neepa Paribahan moved cotton cargo from Krishnapatnam
Port to Bangladesh. On the return leg, the service could bring only empties, as there was no return cargo. A possibility for filling the ships on the return leg is with RMG that are being exported from Bangladesh to India. “We are confident that we can load 120 teu from Krishnapatnam
Port to ICD Pangaon and in the reverse journey as well,” claimed a confident Vinita. She appealed to all the trade present at the event including exporters, importers, river sea vessels operators and container operators to come together and make the protocol a success. “We would like to see a river sea vessel service commence from Krishnapatnam Port to Pangaon Terminal, latest by second week of November.”
Another aspect to be addressed is the congestion growing at the international border. Huge amount of cargo travels 2000 km from south of India, all the way crossing over almost 5 states of India and finally reaching the border where a delay of at least 14 days is unavoidable. In the process a lot of pilferage of cargo happens and the safety of cargo is also compromised. Sometimes the cotton transported through land gets so damaged that certain part of it is not useful. Moving goods in containers through sea is extremely safe and free from the risk of pilferage and damage.
We are calculating the cost of moving goods from south India into Dhaka via road and we plan to offer you a lower cost proposition for moving goods by sea from Krishnapatnam Port to ICT Pangaon. There are two options for connecting Krishnapatnam Port to Pangaon – one is through river sea vessels operated by Shreyas Shipping which already connects Krishnapatnam Port to Colombo and is ready to connect Pangaon as well.
A major concern raised by Vinita was about Customs processes because sometimes they insist for de-stuffing and checking the entire cargo from the container. “To resolve this issue we can offer container scanners installed at Krishnapatnam Port for Indian Customs to use them and the report generated by Indian Customs can be shared with the Bangladesh Customs to expedite and simplify the Customs process,” suggested Vinita.
Since the relaxation of Cabotage the volume of exim transhipment handled at Indian ports has tremendously increased. On the east coast, Krishnapatnam Port is the highest volume transhipment cargo operator. 20,000 teus or 50 per cent of the cargo handled by the port is transhipment. Cargo coming from China and Korea which was earlier transhipped at Singapore and Port Klang, is now transhipped at Krishnapatnam Port for Kolkata and Haldia. A similar service can be offered for Chittagong Port as well and the cost for both mainlines and feeder operators will be comparatively low.
Shashi Bhushan Shukla, IRS, Member (Traffic), Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI), shared the projects taken up by the government of India to promote Inland waterways. In 2016, the government identified
111 waterways as national waterways, which includes 20,000 km of rivers that are being developed in a phased manner. Some of these rivers are chosen on priority: NW-1 that includes Ganga, Bhagirathi and Hooghly which connects to Bangladesh river system in Sundarban. NW-1 is being developed at a cost of `6000 crore and three multimodal terminals are being developed each at Varanasi, Sahebgunj and Haldia. One new navigational lock at Farraka is being developed, along with two intermodal terminals at Ghazipur and Kalughat. A terminal is also being developed in Kolkata that will be operated by M/S Summit Alliance based in Bangladesh. NW-1 will be connected to the protocol route to ensure seamless movement of vessels of approximately 2000 tonnes with uniform draft of 3.5 meters for up to 3600km. Cargo from North
India can come directly to Bangladesh through waterways.
“It is very important to understand why South Asia matters? South Asia is our route to progress,” said
Dr. Gowher Rizvi, Advisor to Hon’ble Prime Minister, Government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh. Until 1947 this region was highly integrated but in the later years the linkages between the countries have been dismantled. There is a need to rebuild those linkages. While as individual countries we have made tremendous progress but as a region we have failed to integrate. In the past 70 years we have been competing instead of collaborating for mutual progress and the result is evident – South Asia has the largest population below poverty line and illiterate. A beginning has to be made at this platform to foster mutual cooperation and collaborative development in the region.
(L to R) Shashi Bhushan Shukla, IRS, Member (Traffic), IWAI; Sajjadul Hassan, Secretary, Prime Minister’s Office, Government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh; Dr. Gowher Rizvi, Advisor to Hon’ble Prime Minister, Government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh; Vinita Venkatesh, Director, Navayuga Container Terminal Pvt Ltd; Md. Abdus Samad, Secretary, Ministry of Shipping, Government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh; Commodore Ariful Islam, Director General, Ministry of Shipping, Government of the People's Republic of Bangladesh; SK Mahfuz Hamid, Managing Director, Gulf Orient Seaways Ltd
Dr. Gowher Rizvi, Advisor to Hon’ble Prime Minister, Government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh, explains why South Asia matters?